BOSTON — Ask real estate agents whether there’s a professionalism problem in the industry and they might say there is — and it sits right across from them at the transaction table.
On Friday, the National Association of Realtors launched a program years in the making that it hopes will address that issue: its Commitment to Excellence program.
“Too often we as association executives hear our members talking about someone keeping up both sides of a transaction because the other person didn’t know what they were doing,” Marc Gould, NAR’s senior vice president of member professional development, told hundreds of association executives and other Realtors at NAR’s Realtors Conference & Expo Friday.
“Or we hear about members losing the opportunity to get a piece of business because the client was told a whole bunch of crap … and they didn’t get the listing, they didn’t get the buyer client. And it turned out it was false, it was not true.
“So how do you change that? How do you something as a trade association that is going to allow our members to take it back and to own it? This program is going to help facilitate that.”
The Commitment to Excellence (C2EX) program, provided at no additional cost, is voluntary and allows NAR’s 1.3 million members to take a self-assessment test that measures their proficiency in certain core competencies (10 for agents, 11 for brokers):
- Real estate law
- The Realtor Code of Ethics
- Article 10 of the Realtor Code of Ethics, which prohibits discrimination for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity
- Political advocacy for property ownership rights
- Trust and integrity
- Safeguarding privacy and staying up-to-date on the latest security measures and laws and regulations
- Areas of practice
- Client service
- Building and maintaining an “impeccable” professional reputation
- Broker-owner commitment to providing an environment that promotes excellent customer service
Based on the results of that assessment, the web-based platform generates an individualized path of recommended classes and experiences and provides tools and resources to help members increase their knowledge and expand their skills in various areas of professionalism, NAR told Inman.
A printed flier for the program distributed at NAR’s annual meeting in Boston positioned it as a way for agents to achieve their “greatest potential” on their time and their terms.
The Commitment to Excellence program is not a course or designation, but is created in a way that it won’t inhibit any professionalism efforts local and state associations already have in place, Gould told attendees.
“It’s not gamification at all, but it is quite interactive. And it’s mobile friendly, so phone, tablet, laptop, desktop. It doesn’t matter where you’re at, you’ll be able to log in and see where you are on the learning path,” Gould said.
If a member has taken a Code of Ethics course, earned a certification or designation, or donated to the Realtor Political Action Committee (RPAC), the platform will note that, according to Gould. Members will also be able to send surveys to clients that stay within the system, he added.
“We wanted to create a program that increases the consumer perception of the Realtor,” he said.
Why is the program voluntary?
Increasing licensing requirements would have required NAR to go state by state over the course of years and “we just weren’t going to do that,” Gould told attendees.
Asked why NAR itself wasn’t making the Commitment to Excellence mandatory, NAR spokesperson Jane Dollinger told Inman via email, “NAR understands that professionalism is a value that cannot be mandated, which is why we empower Realtors to demonstrate their professionalism and commitment to conducting business at the highest standards.”
But NAR does require biennial training on its Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, a set of dozens of mandatory professionalism policies that members can be disciplined for if they violate them. Why is the Commitment to Excellence different?
“This is a benefit being offered to our members and not a requirement. That is all we have to say,” Dollinger told Inman.
In 2014, a NAR presidential advisory group (PAG) of about 30 members called “Realtor of the Future” recommended NAR’s leadership team create a new “Code of Excellence” educational requirement to increase professionalism in the industry.
NAR’s board of directors approved the recommendation in November 2014, but by May 2015, the trade group discarded the idea of making the Code of Excellence a requirement and instead came up with a voluntary, “aspirational” Realtors Commitment to Excellence statement.
At the time, NAR’s board approved a Commitment to Excellence Advisory Board to report to NAR’s Professional Standards Committee and further develop the Commitment to Excellence program.
This was after a “DANGER Report” commissioned by NAR warned that the top danger facing the industry in the near term is that masses of “marginal” agents could destroy the industry’s reputation.
“The real estate industry is saddled with a large number of part-time, untrained, unethical and/or incompetent agents. This knowledge gap threatens the credibility of the industry,” the report said.
The NAR board approved the Commitment to Excellence program in concept in 2016, subject to costs. The program will cost $800,000 in 2019, NAR told Inman earlier this year. The cost will be covered by the $30 dues increase the NAR board approved in May.